Former Bophuthatswana leader Lucas Mangope buried

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MOTSWEDI, January 27 – Former Bophuthatswana president and United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP) founder Lucas Mangope, who died on January 18 at the age of 94, was buried in Motswedi near Zeerust in the North West on Saturday.

Hundreds of mourners braved the pouring rain to give Mangope a heroes farewell. Two giant tents were erected at Mangope’s royal house Gaetsho and were filled to capacity, while the overflow of mourners stood outside alongside the road leading to the royal house.

Traditional leaders from as far as Botswana attended the funeral, as did Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota, African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe, North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, and former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke. Former Bophuthatswana cabinet minsters and community leaders also turned up in large numbers. Mangope’s coffin was draped in a leopard skin.

Bart Dorrenstein, who worked in Mangope’s government, told mourners the former homeland leader was a “giant man”. “He was a giant man, a leader who was there for his people, not for himself. He created jobs, built schools, and created national parks. His legacy will live for ever, he was an amazing man.”

Mangope was the founder of the UCDP, but in 2011 he was expelled from the party for allegedly making unilateral decisions and expelling senior party members. He challenged his expulsion in court and the court subsequently restored his party membership but not his leadership.

He became president of Bophuthatswana in 1977, one of several “independent” black homelands which only apartheid-South Africa recognised. He had been accused of using police brutality to suppress protests. In 1988 he was reinstated by the apartheid government following a failed coup led by Rocky Malebana-Metsing, leader of the People’s Progressive Party.

In 1993, in the build up to the first non-racial elections in South Africa in April 1994, Mangope stated that Bophuthatswana would remain independent of the new South Africa and he would not allow the upcoming elections to take place in “his country”. However, he was removed from office by then South African foreign minister Pik Botha and transitional executive council member Mac Maharaj in March 1994.

– African News Agency (ANA)